The Dirty Dozen
Dirty moviep.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Frank McCarthy still m
Directed byRobert Aldrich
Screenplay byNunnally Johnson
Lukas Heller
Based onThe Dirty Dozen
by E. M. Nathanson
Produced byKenneth Hyman
StarringLee Marvin
Ernest Borgnine
Charles Bronson
Jim Brown
John Cassavetes
Richard Jaeckel
George Kennedy
Trini Lopez
Ralph Meeker
Robert Ryan
Telly Savalas
Clint Walker
Robert Webber
CinematographyEdward Scaife
Edited byMichael Luciano
Music byFrank De Vol
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 15, 1967 (1967-06-15)
Running time
150 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
LanguagesEnglish
German
French
Budget$5.4 million[1]
Box office$45.3 million[2]

The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 American war film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Lee Marvin with an ensemble supporting cast including Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker and Robert Webber. Set in 1944 during the Second World War, it was filmed in England at MGM-British Studios and released by MGM. The film was a box office success and won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing at the 40th Academy Awards in 1968. In 2001, the American Film Institute placed it at number 65 on their 100 Years... 100 Thrills list. The screenplay is based on the 1965 bestseller by E. M. Nathanson which was inspired by a real-life WWII unit of behind-the-lines demolition specialists from the 101st Airborne Division named the "Filthy Thirteen". Another possible inspiration was the public offer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by 44 prisoners serving life sentences at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to serve in the Pacific on suicide missions against the Japanese. [3]

Plot

In March 1944, OSS officer Major John Reisman is ordered by the commander of ADSEC in Britain, Major General Sam Worden, to undertake Project Amnesty, a top-secret mission to train some of the Army's worst prisoners and turn them into commandos to be sent on a virtual suicide mission just before D-Day. The target is a château near Rennes where dozens of high-ranking German officers will be eliminated in order to disrupt the chain of command of the Wehrmacht in Northern France before the Allied invasion. The prisoners who survive the mission will receive pardons for their crimes.

Five prisoners are condemned to death while the others face lengthy sentences which include hard labour. With a detachment of MPs led by Sgt. Bowren acting as guards, the rebellious prisoners gradually learn how to operate together when they are forced to build their own training camp. An act of insubordination results in withholding all shaving and wash kits, leading to their nickname "The Dirty Dozen." After the men are psychoanalyzed, Reisman is warned they would all likely kill him if given the chance.

With the commando training almost complete, the mission is nearly cancelled on the insistence of Colonel Breed due to not only disciplinary infractions by the prisoners, but also certain rogue conduct by Reisman. However, General Worden allows the mission to proceed after the Dirty Dozen successfully capture Breed's command post in a war games manoeuvre.

After parachuting into France, Jiminez snaps his neck in a tree and dies in the jump. The remaining eleven proceed with Reisman and Bowren. The mission is jeopdised when Maggot, the most psychotic prisoner, blows cover. However, the mission continues successfully, although the prisoners are being killed one by one as it progresses. Ultimately, Reisman, Bowren and only one prisoner, Wladislaw, survive. Wladislaw is exonerated, with the deceased prisoners next of kin told "they lost their lives in the line of duty".

Cast

Production

Writing

Although Robert Aldrich had failed to buy the rights to E.M. Nathanson's novel The Dirty Dozen while it was just an outline, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer succeeded in May 1963. On publication, the novel became a best-seller in 1965. It was adapted to the screen by veteran scriptwriter and producer Nunnally Johnson, and Lukas Heller. A repeated rhyme was written into the script where the twelve actors verbally recite the details of the attack in a rhyming chant to help them remember their roles while approaching the mission target:

  1. Down to the road block, we've just begun.
  2. The guards are through.
  3. The Major's men are on a spree.
  4. Major and Wladislaw go through the door.
  5. Pinkley stays out in the drive.
  6. The Major gives the rope a fix.
  7. Wladislaw throws the hook to heaven.
  8. Jimenez has got a date.
  9. The other guys go up the line.
  10. Sawyer and Gilpin are in the pen.
  11. Posey guards Points Five and Seven.
  12. Wladislaw and the Major go down to delve.
  13. Franko goes up without being seen.
  14. Zero Hour: Jimenez cuts the cable; Franko cuts the phone.
  15. Franko goes in where the others have been.
  16. We all come out like it's Halloween.

Casting

The cast included many World War II US veterans including Lee Marvin, Robert Webber and Robert Ryan (US Marine Corps); Telly Savalas and George Kennedy (US Army); Charles Bronson (US Army Air Forces); Ernest Borgnine (US Navy); and Clint Walker (US Merchant Marine).

John Wayne was the original choice for Reisman, but he turned down the role because he objected to the adultery present in the original script, which featured the character having a relationship with an Englishwoman whose husband was fighting on the Continent.[4] Jack Palance refused the "Archer Maggott" role when they would not rewrite the script to make his character lose his racism; Telly Savalas took the role instead.[5]

Six of the dozen were experienced American stars, while the "Back Six" were actors resident in the UK, Englishman Colin Maitland, Canadians Donald Sutherland and Tom Busby, and Americans Stuart Cooper, Al Mancini, and Ben Carruthers. According to commentary on The Dirty Dozen: 2-Disc Special Edition, when Trini Lopez left the film early, the death scene of Lopez's character where he blew himself up with the radio tower was given to Busby[6] (in the film, Ben Carruthers' character Glenn Gilpin is given the task of blowing up the radio tower while Busby's character Milo Vladek is shot in front of the château). Lopez's character dies off-camera during the parachute drop that begins the mission.[7] The impersonation of the general scene was to have been done by Clint Walker, but when he thought the scene was demeaning to his character, who was a Native American, Aldrich picked out Sutherland for the bit.[8][9]

Jim Brown, the Cleveland Browns running back, announced his retirement from American football at age 29 during the making of the film. The owner of the Browns, Art Modell, demanded Brown choose between football and acting. With Brown's considerable accomplishments in the sport (he was already the NFL's all-time leading rusher, was well ahead statistically of the second-leading rusher, and his team had won the 1964 NFL Championship), he chose acting. In Spike Lee's 2002 documentary Jim Brown: All-American Modell admitted he made a huge mistake in forcing Jim Brown to choose between football and Hollywood. He said that if he had it to do over again, he would never have made such a demand. Modell fined Jim Brown the equivalent of over $100 per day, a fine which Brown said that "today wouldn't even buy the doughnuts for a team".[10]

Filming

Aldbury – scene of the wargame
Aldbury – scene of the wargame
Bradenham Manor – Wargames HQ
Bradenham Manor – Wargames HQ

The production was filmed in the U.K. during the summer of 1966.[11] Interiors and set pieces took place at MGM-British Studios, Borehamwood, where the château set was built under the direction of art director William Hutchinson. It was 720 yards (660 m) wide and 50 feet (15 m) high, surrounded with 5,400 square yards (4,500 m2) of heather, 400 ferns, 450 shrubs, 30 spruce trees and six weeping willows. Construction of the faux château proved problematic. The script required its explosion, but it was so solid that 70 tons of explosives would have been required for the effect. Instead, a cork and plastic section was destroyed.[citation needed]

Exteriors were shot throughout southeast England. The credit scenes at the American military prison – alluded in the movie to be Shepton Mallett – were shot in a courtyard at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire. Co-star Richard Jaeckel recalled that when the introductory lineup scene was first shot, Aldrich, who liked to play pranks on his actors, initially placed 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) Charles Bronson between 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) Clint Walker and 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Donald Sutherland, which provoked an angry response from the diminutive Bronson, making Aldrich laugh.[12]

The jump school scene was shot at the former entrance to RAF Hendon in London. The wargame was filmed in and around the village of Aldbury. Bradenham Manor was the Wargames' Headquarters. Beechwood Park School in Markyate was also used as a location during the school's summer term, where the training camp and tower were built and shot in the grounds and the village itself as parts of "Devonshire". The main house was also used, appearing in the film as a military hospital.[13] After filming finished, the training camp huts were relocated and used as sports equipment storage for the school's playing fields. Residents of Chenies, Buckinghamshire complained to MGM when filming caused damage around their village.[11]

While making the film, some of the cast members gave an interview to ABC Film review, in which they contrasted their own real wartime ranks to their officer roles in the film:

George Kennedy: Took me two years to make Private First Class.
Lee Marvin: I didn't even make that in the Marines.
Ernest Borgnine: I was beneath notice in the Navy
For punks, we're doing all right, said Marvin. I wonder how the generals are doing?[14]

Heavy rains throughout the summer caused filming delays of several months, leading to $1 million in overruns and bringing the final cost to $5 million.[11] Principal photography wrapped at MGM-British Studios in September 1966 with post-production to be completed at MGM studios in Culver City, California.[11]

Release

Theatrical

The Dirty Dozen premiered at the Capitol Theatre in New York City on June 15, 1967[11] and opened at the 34th Street East theatre the following day.[15][16] Despite being shot in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the film was initially shown in 70 mm which cut off 15% of the film and resulted in a grainy look.[17]

Reception

Box office

The Dirty Dozen was a massive commercial success. In its first five days in New York, the film grossed $103,849 from 2 theatres.[16] Produced on a budget of $5.4 million, it earned theatrical rentals of $7.5 million in its first five weeks from 1,152 bookings and 625 prints, one of the fastest-grossing films at the time;[18] however, on Variety's weekly box office survey, based on a sample of key city theatres, it only reached number two at the U.S. box office behind You Only Live Twice until it finally reached number one in its sixth week.[19] It eventually earned rentals of $24.2 million in the United States and Canada from a gross of $45.3 million.[20] It was the fourth-highest-grossing film of 1967 and MGM's highest-grossing film of the year. It was also a hit in France, with admissions of 4,672,628.[21]

To coincide with its release, Dell Comics published a comic The Dirty Dozen in October 1967.[22][23]

Critical response

The film holds an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 52 reviews, with an average rating of 8.00/10. The critical consensus reads, "Amoral on the surface and exuding testosterone, The Dirty Dozen utilizes combat and its staggering cast of likable scoundrels to deliver raucous entertainment."[24] On release, the film was criticised for its level of violence. Roger Ebert, who was in his first year as a film reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote sarcastically:

I'm glad the Chicago Police Censor Board forgot about that part of the local censorship law where it says films shall not depict the burning of the human body. If you have to censor, stick to censoring sex, I say...but leave in the mutilation, leave in the sadism and by all means leave in the human beings burning to death. It's not obscene as long as they burn to death with their clothes on.[25]

In another contemporaneous review, Bosley Crowther called it "an astonishingly wanton war film" and a "studied indulgence of sadism that is morbid and disgusting beyond words"; he also noted:

It is not simply that this violent picture of an American military venture is based on a fictional supposition that is silly and irresponsible. ... But to have this bunch of felons a totally incorrigible lot, some of them psychopathic, and to try to make us believe that they would be committed by any American general to carry out an exceedingly important raid that a regular commando group could do with equal efficiency—and certainly with greater dependability—is downright preposterous.[15]

Crowther called some of the portrayals "bizarre and bold":

Marvin's taut, pugnacious playing of the major ... is tough and terrifying. John Cassavetes is wormy and noxious as a psychopath condemned to death, and Telly Savalas is swinish and maniacal as a religious fanatic and sex degenerate. Charles Bronson as an alienated murderer, Richard Jaeckel as a hard-boiled military policeman, and Jim Brown as a white-hating Negro stand out in the animalistic group.[15]

Art Murphy of Variety was more positive, calling it "an exciting World War II pre-D-Day drama" with an "excellent cast" and a "very good screenplay" with "a ring of authenticity to it".[17]

The Time Out Film Guide notes that over the years, "The Dirty Dozen has taken its place alongside that other commercial classic, The Magnificent Seven". The review then states:

The violence which liberal critics found so offensive has survived intact. Aldrich sets up dispensable characters with no past and no future, as Marvin reprieves a bunch of death row prisoners, forges them into a tough fighting unit, and leads them on a suicide mission into Nazi France. Apart from the values of team spirit, cudgeled by Marvin into his dropout group, Aldrich appears to be against everything: anti-military, anti-Establishment, anti-women, anti-religion, anti-culture, anti-life. Overriding such nihilism is the super-crudity of Aldrich's energy and his humour, sufficiently cynical to suggest that the whole thing is a game anyway, a spectacle that demands an audience.[26]

Accolades

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[27] Best Supporting Actor John Cassavetes Nominated
Best Film Editing Michael Luciano Nominated
Best Sound Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studio Sound Department Nominated
Best Sound Effects John Poyner Won
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Feature Film Michael Luciano Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Robert Aldrich Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture John Cassavetes Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Action-Drama Nominated
Top Action Performance Lee Marvin Won
Top Male Supporting Performance Jim Brown Nominated
John Cassavetes Nominated
Photoplay Awards Gold Medal Won

Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Sequels, adaptations and remake

Three years after The Dirty Dozen was released, Too Late the Hero, a film also directed by Aldrich, was described as a "kind of sequel to The Dirty Dozen".[31] The 1969 Michael Caine film Play Dirty follows a similar theme of convicts recruited as soldiers. The 1977 Italian war film directed by Enzo G. Castellari, The Inglorious Bastards, is a loose remake of The Dirty Dozen.[32] Quentin Tarantino's 2009 Inglourious Basterds was derived from the English-language title of the Castellari film.[33][34]

Several TV films were produced in the mid-to-late 1980s which capitalized on the popularity of the first film. Lee Marvin, Richard Jaeckel and Ernest Borgnine reprised their roles for The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission in 1985, leading a group of military convicts in a mission to kill a German general who was plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler.[35][unreliable source?] In The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987), Telly Savalas, who had played the role of the psychotic Maggott in the original film, assumed the different role of Major Wright, an officer who leads a group of military convicts to extract a group of German scientists who are being forced to make a deadly nerve gas.[36] Ernest Borgnine again reprised his role of General Worden. The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988) depicts Savalas's Wright character and a group of renegade soldiers attempting to prevent a group of extreme German generals from starting a Fourth Reich, with Erik Estrada co-starring and Ernest Borgnine again playing the role of General Worden.[37] In 1988, Fox aired a short-lived television series starring Ben Murphy. Among the cast was John Slattery, who played Private Leeds in eight of the show's 11 episodes.[38][unreliable source?]

Some of the surviving cast members of the original film provided the voices of the toy soldiers in Joe Dante's Small Soldiers.[citation needed]

In 2014, Warner Bros. announced that director David Ayer would be the director of a live-action adaptation of the DC Comics property Suicide Squad, and Ayer has gone on to say that the film is "the Dirty Dozen with super villains", citing the original film as inspiration. In December 2019 Warner Brothers announced it was developing a remake with David Ayer set to direct.[39]

Historical authenticity

Nathanson states in the prologue to his novel The Dirty Dozen, that while he heard a legend that such a unit may have existed, he incorrectly heard they were convicts. He was unable to find any corroboration in the archives of the US Army in Europe. He instead turned his research of convicted felons into the subsequent novel. While he does not state from where he acquired the name, but Arch Whitehouse coined the name "Dirty Dozen" as the 12 enlisted men of the airborne section that would become the "Filthy Thirteen" after the lieutenant joined their ranks. In Arch Whitehouse's article in True Magazine, he claimed all the enlisted men were full-blood Indians, but in reality only their leader, Jake McNeice was quarter Choctaw. The parts of the Filthy Thirteen story that carried over into Nathanson's book were not bathing until the jump into Normandy, their disrespect for military authority, and the pre-invasion party. The Filthy Thirteen was in actuality a demolitions section with a mission to secure bridges over the Douve on D-Day.[40][41]

A similarly named unit called the "Filthy Thirteen" was an airborne demolition unit documented in the eponymous book,[42] and this unit's exploits inspired the fictional account. Barbara Maloney, the daughter of John Agnew, a private in the Filthy Thirteen, told the American Valor Quarterly that her father felt that 30% of the film's content was historically correct, including a scene where officers are captured. Unlike the Dirty Dozen, the Filthy Thirteen were not convicts; however, they were men prone to drinking and fighting and often spent time in the stockade.[43][44]

Nathanson wrote the last chapter of the novel in the form of an epistolary novel, presenting the climactic battle at the chateau in the form of a written report.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ Silver, Alain; Ursini, James (1995). Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?. Hal Leonard. p. 269. ISBN 978-0879101855. Archived from the original on 20 April 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  2. ^ "The Dirty Dozen, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  3. ^ "44 Life-Termers Ask to Fight Japs as Suicide Squad," PM, May 3, 1942 https://fultonhistory.com/Login_18/New%20York%20NY%20PM%20%20Daily/New%20York%20NY%20PM%20Daily%201942/New%20York%20NY%20PM%20Daily%201942%20-%201926.pdf
  4. ^ Roberts, Randy; Olsen, James Stuart (1997). John Wayne: American. Omaha: University of Nebraska Press. p. 537.
  5. ^ "Actor Jack Palance Won't Play Racist for $141,000". Jet. XXIX (22): 59. 10 March 1966. Archived from the original on 15 March 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  6. ^ Commentary The Dirty Dozen: 2-Disc Special Edition
  7. ^ Film The Dirty Dozen: 2-Disc Special Edition
  8. ^ Patterson, John (3 September 2005). "Total recall". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 29 August 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  9. ^ "These World War II Heroes Were Dirtier by the 'Dozen'". LA Times. 19 May 2000. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  10. ^ Cortes, Ryan (13 July 2016). "Jim Brown retires while on the set of 'The Dirty Dozen'". The Undefeated. Archived from the original on 26 December 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e "The Dirty Dozen (1967)". www.catalog.afi.com. Archived from the original on 29 October 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  12. ^ Freese, Gene (2016). Richard Jaeckel, Hollywood's Man of Character. McFarland. p. 88. ISBN 978-14-76662-10-7.
  13. ^ "The Dirty Dozen (1967) Filming Locations". www.themoviedistrict.com. Archived from the original on 10 July 2020. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  14. ^ "WHAT LEE MARVIN REALLY THOUGHT OF THE DIRTY DOZEN". www.pointblankbook.com. 16 June 2017. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  15. ^ a b c Crowther, Bosley (16 June 1967). "The Dirty Dozen (1967)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  16. ^ a b "'Heat of Night' Scores With Crix; Quick B.O. Pace". Variety. 9 August 1967. p. 3.
  17. ^ a b Murphy, A.D. (21 June 1967). "Film Reviews: The Dirty Dozen". Variety. p. 6. Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  18. ^ "'Dirty Dozen' Nabs $7.5-Mil. In 5 Wks". Variety. 9 August 1967. p. 3.
  19. ^ "National Boxoffice Survey". Variety. 9 August 1967. p. 4.
  20. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967". Variety. 3 January 1968. p. 25.
  21. ^ Soyer, Renaud (July 14, 2013) "Robert Aldrich Box Office" Archived May 11, 2020, at the Wayback Machine. Box Office Story (in French).
  22. ^ Dell Movie Classic: The Dirty Dozen at the Grand Comics Database
  23. ^ Dell Movie Classic: The Dirty Dozen at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)
  24. ^ "The Dirty Dozen". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 27 April 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  25. ^ Ebert, Roger (26 July 1967). "The Dirty Dozen". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  26. ^ "The Dirty Dozen". Time Out. Archived from the original on 7 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  27. ^ "The 40th Academy Awards (1968) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  28. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  29. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 October 2019. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  30. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 February 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Cinema: Jungle Rot". Time. 8 June 1970. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2010. War may be getting a bad name, but it still pays at the box office. Ask Director Robert Aldrich. His 1967 film The Dirty Dozen made millions by drafting a gang of incorrigible convicts into a mission behind enemy lines. Too Late the Hero is a kind of sequel to The Dirty Dozen, based once again on a World War II suicide mission.
  32. ^ "Inglourious Basterds Has Inglorious Beginnings". FlickDirect. 13 August 209. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  33. ^ "Inglourious Basterds Review". CBC News. 21 August 2009. Archived from the original on 26 August 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  34. ^ Wise, Damon (15 August 2009). "Inglourious Basterds Guide". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 17 August 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  35. ^ The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission at IMDb
  36. ^ The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission at the TCM Movie Database
  37. ^ The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission at the TCM Movie Database
  38. ^ Dirty Dozen: The Series at IMDb
  39. ^ "Dirty Dozen Movie Remake Recruits Suicide Squad Director David Ayer". ScreenRant. Archived from the original on 17 December 2019. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  40. ^ Yardley, William (13 February 2013). "Jake McNiece, Who Led Incorrigible D-Day Unit, Is Dead at 93". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  41. ^ "World War II soldier John (Jack) Agnew, whose unit inspired 'Dirty Dozen,' dies at 88". New York Daily News. Associated Press. 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  42. ^ Killblane, Richard; McNiece, Jake (19 May 2003). The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagle's Nest: The True Story of the 101st Airborne's Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers. Casemate. ISBN 978-1935149811. Archived from the original on 20 April 2021. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  43. ^ "Associated Press, April 11, 2010". Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  44. ^ The Filthy Thirteen: The U.S. Army's Real "Dirty Dozen" American Valor Quarterly. Winter 2008–09. Retrieved April 10, 2010. Archived April 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine